Sunday, December 24, 2006

Baaa Humbug

I started my Christmas shopping at PetSmart. The dog needed food and since I was there, I bought the loot for all the pets’ stockings as well. Being in Holiday-time-saving-mode, I wasn’t about to make two trips to PetSmart, of all places.

I had to be in time-saving mode. I really procrastinated this year, leaving myself only one week to shop. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it sooner. I get so fed up with the holiday crap. It’s just so wasteful. Nobody really needs anything.

I buy a box of unnecessary crap for you. You buy a box of unnecessary crap for me. We’ve just wasted money, natural resources and contributed to the deforestation of China, all because we needed to supply each other with thoughtful Holiday garage-sale fodder.

And I’m not a big fan of gift cards, either. It’s too much like getting a project. Now I have to actually physically go to a store to redeem it: I give you a gift card. You give me a gift card. Why don’t we just sit down and write each other checks?

Everyone on my list got a goat this year. Not a real one, although the idea of actually physically sending a goat to some people on my list cracks me up—but a Heifer goat. I made several goat-sized donations to Heifer International and they will send an actual physical goat to a poor family in a third world country. The family can live off the goat’s milk, sell what they don’t need and it enables them. It gives them a way to not only survive, but hopefully to thrive. They’re also under obligation to breed the goat with other Heifer goats in the area, thus perpetuating the “wealth.” It seems like such a great idea. I only wish it were more like those adopt-a-child places, where you get a photo of your goat and its family, but in reality, the donated money goes into a pool at Heifer and doesn’t buy one individual goat. That’s okay. It’s the idea that’s important to me. Very few trees die in the process. I just hope I don’t ever see a 60 Minutes special in which the president of Heifer International sails away from the Cayman Islands on his new yacht, “The Kid.”

You probably think I’m a great big Grinch. Maybe I am. But I know I’d love it if someone got me a goat. I hope the people on my list like theirs. I’m still fretting over my decision to buy everyone a few token boxes of crap—to borrow my own words—and then have their “big gift” be a donation to a charity of my choosing.

Maybe that’s why I ended up at PetSmart first, buying gifts for the only beings on my list without expectations: my pets. The only ones who don’t care, who won’t be disappointed, who won’t evaluate how much I paid, or the time and consideration that went into their presents. My dog and two cats will simply be thrilled that they got something new to play with. Perhaps they’re the ones who have best appreciation of the idea of Christmas. Okay, maybe not. But they’re definitely not the ones who’ll have me standing in return lines on Tuesday.

When my son Kyle learned of the stocking stuffers for the other pets, he realized his fish needed something too, “So he won’t feel left out.” It was off to PetSmart—again—where Kyle insisted on using his own money to buy his fish a sculpture.

It was a weird kind of pet store wisdom, a lesson on the spirit of Christmas giving that I obviously need to learn.